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"Girls" Interrupted

Last night's Gilmore Girls ("Super Cool Party People") brought us the first episode written by inbound Gilmore Girls showrunner David Rosenthal since the announcement that he would be taking over for departing showrunner/executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. It's also his second writing credit on the show to date. So how did the new showrunner do?

I really, really tried to go into "Super Cool Party People" with an open mind. But was it just me or did the episode feel as awkward as the beginning of April's birthday party? The way that David Rosenthal wrote the episode reminded me of how Luke was barking out orders and rules to those poor girls attending newly-discovered daughter April's fete: he wanted them to have fun and have a good time but in the end only made everyone miserable. Poetic justice?

I was completely baffled by the scene in which Luke and Lorelai finally begin to even talk about the awkwardness that is their relationship regarding April, especially as it seems to spring from Luke's insistence that he buy a weird kitty-covered bathroom set for April as a present. (Also bizarre: Luke talking about how he enjoys shopping with Lorelai? Not buying it at all.) As Luke seems to descend into madness over the joys of purchasing soap for little April, he finally admits the reason why he's been keeping April at arm's length from Lorelai: he's afraid that April would like Lorelai better than him because Lorelai is as fun as a "cartoon character" and he'd lose her. First off, if someone called me a "cartoon character" I'd be offended, but--putting that remark aside--the scene fell flat. This is a crucial character moment that we've been building towards for the second half of the season, where Lorelai finally confronts Luke about his mishandling of their relationship. Instead what Rosenthal gave us was a bizarre whimper of a scene that never delved into what Luke's confession says about his unease around April and his jealousy of the relationship between Lorelai and Rory, one he can never replicate with April.

So far, I've loved April's mom, Anna Nardini (the incandescent Sherilyn Fenn), but last night Anna came off as nothing more than a raving lunatic. Angrily confronting Luke after she discovers Lorelai's involvement in April's party-turned-sleepover, Anna is furious that parents could find out that April and her friends spent the entire night with a strange woman (Lorelai) whom none of them know and screamed at Luke for some time about how unreliable he is. Um, excuse me, but apparently Anna would have been fine if everyone thought the girls spent the entire night sleeping in the same room as Luke, himself a strange man, April's long-lost dad, and the owner of the diner where April's party was thrown? That would have been a better scenario for her to explain to the kids' parents? And who exactly did she think was going to keep an eye on the girls all night when April called to tell her about the slumber party? The big, hairy guy whom the kids have nicknamed Hagrid?

And then there was the entire Rory and Logan storyline, which lacked any real sense of urgency or emotion. I never once felt that Rory was actually concerned with Logan nor when he became conscious that this was a young couple in love. Plus, what was up with Rory calling Logan's dad Mitchum and screaming at him to get down to the hospital? Especially when we didn't see that same phone call from Mitchum's perspective, though we were forced to watch both sides of an unnecessary Rory-Honor phone call (and Rory-Paris and Rory-Lorelai, etc.). And then when Mitchum does finally show up, it's with nary a word between him and Rory (or any dialogue at all), and then goes into see his injured son, a scene that we had to hear about from Logan rather than see. My only consolations is that I hope producers paid actor Gregg Henry quite a lot for his silently-walking-across-hall performance in this episode.

Finally, another scene that really got under my skin was that between Lorelai and Anna, when Lorelai goes to apologize to April's mom for the party. Rosenthal mines the very obviousness of the similarities between Anna and Lorelai and their situations (i.e., single-motherhood) instead of mining this further in a less direct way. Again, Anna comes across as a tyrant, refusing Lorelai any contact with April, and stinging her with a zinger about engagements not being the same as marriages ("Lots of people get engaged," she says. Ouch.). And Lorelai looks a complete doormat for not trying to call Anna out on this. Is this what a relationship with Luke has done to Lorelai? Made her into a wallflower afraid to stick up for herself or speak her mind? Is this what's become of our tough Gilmore girl?

(Another nitpick, though not really Rosenthal's fault, is that no one has even mentioned the fact that Lorelai's entire family seems under the impression that her June wedding to Luke is still on; it's a rather disturbingly dangling plot thread that, while not Rosenthal's fault, nonetheless irks.)

Only two episodes of Gilmore Girls remain before Amy and Daniel walk off into the sunset and after watching "Super Cool Party People" I am definitely concerned by Rosenthal being in charge of the creative path that this show will take next season, especially since he doesn't really seem to "get" these characters. In the meantime, we've got two episodes of Palladino goodness left, which from the looks of it, will be quite a race to the finale: an elopement, a possible pregnancy (judging from the red hair, I think it's Luke's sis Liz rather than a Gilmore girl), and an emotional goodbye as Logan departs for London... and the Palladinos leave Stars Hollow for good.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I have a lot to say about last night's ep. For me it was kind of an exercise in frustration. But we should talk later....
Anonymous said…
Wouldn't Amy Sherman-Palladino have overseen the writing of this episode? If David Rosenthal got character points wrong, wouldn't she have stepped in? The characters on GILMORE GIRLS are often inconsistent in my opinion. They react however the storyline dictates. It doesn't bother me, as so much of the show is artificial. It's the relationship between Lorelai and Rory that has integrity. GG is frustrating on so many levels. The writing can vacillate from brilliant (almost anything with Lorelai and Sookie) to annoying (anything with Taylor) in seconds.

I'd say last night's episode was a B-. The Rory/Logan story was weak, but so much of that storyline is boring. I don't see the appeal of Logan. It's as though Amy wanted to bring back Tristan, but Chad Michael Murray was busy with ONE TREE HILL so they did a slight revision to the character. From "Mary" to "Ace" in 5 years. You've come a long way, Rory!

I have hope that next year will be solid. Not as stellar as it's been, but hopefully not as cloying. I just hope the cast can muster some enthusiasm for next season.
Anonymous said…
While I haven't been the biggest fan of the last several episodes of the Girls, I have to disagree with you on some of your criticisms.

The selection of the truly awful kitty bathroom set makes perfect sense with Luke's character. He wants to do right by his little girl, but is woefully unequipped to do so. Are you saying you've never picked out a present which you were sure the recipient would love only to get the dreaded "Oh, gee. Thanks. It's nice. Really."

Luke's admission that he was afraid that April would like Lorelai more than him I found to be surprising, but it also made sense and Luke vulnerable. He loves his kid and is terrified of losing her to someone as obviously winning and big-hearted as Lorelai. That's why in the context of the scene Luke callling Lorelai a cartoon character isn't an insult. It's a compliment. Kids love cartoon characters (as least, in Luke's mind they do).

The confrontation between Luke and Anna I found to be less about the lack of proper supervision at a slumber party and more about the subtext of "How dare you try get your fiance to replace me, the mother of our child?" But even if I was wrong and this scene was only text and no sub, I think the bus trip would have already placed Luke on the list of approved adult overseers with the parents of April's friends. I.E., Anna really would have preferred Luke's supervision over that of a woman she doesn't know.

As far as Rory's phone call to Huntzberger, cross-cutting during that scene would have been pretty visually boring as Rory was clearly engaged in a conversation with Mitchum's voice mail. (Plus, it was nice to see Bledel spit out a stream of interrupted venom like that.)

The confrontation between Lorelai and Anna was not my favorite part of the show, but how exactly should Lorelai have stood up for herself? By saying, "Oh yeah? Well, I AM going to get married" when she just voiced her doubts about that very prospect to an entire town last week?

And, finally, even if Rosenthal got teleplay credit the Palladinos were the showrunners for this episode and as such everything went through them and they should ultimately get all the credit or blame for "Super Cool Party People."

Also, I'd like you to know that I read this blog every day and would like to commend you on the good work and urge you to keep it up (even if I may disagree with your opinions).
Anonymous said…
I found last night's episode to be frustrating. But this is the problem I have with all episodes not written by Amy Sherman-Palladino or Daniel Palladino. I agree with "Tom i." that the show is inconsistent but to me its inconsistency is obvious. Episodes written by Amy and Daniel are spot on, funny, moving, intelligent. All other episodes are basically just filler. Yes, I know that Amy and Daniel are the showrunners and oversee the threads and storylines for every season and must take responsibility for each episode. But it's not the story I have a problem with. In non-Amy/Daniel episodes the elements are all there but the execution is weak. The dialogue doesn't sparkle. The energy doesn't bubble. And things that should be subtle become obvious. Without Amy or Daniel at the helm "Gilmore Girls" is just a shadow of its former self and I know that next season will not be the same without them.
Anonymous said…
I agree. This is beginning to feel like a sad end to my favorite show. I am extremely apprehensive about next year and cannot for the life of me figure out how Amy and Daniel can leave, what has been brilliance on the small screen.
Anonymous said…
The opening scene felt like pure Gilmore, but the remainder felt flat. In thinking it over, I'm less inclined to blame the writer than the architects. It just felt like the writer was given a set of instructions:
1) Find a reason why Luke would be afraid to have Lorelai spend time with April.
2) Find a reason why Luke may feel he has to chose between Lorelai and April (thus setting up the big confrontation in two weeks).

Is Anna's anger over the party convincing? No, because it wasn't clear what the anger was about... was it about chaperoning or the fact that April might grow attached to Lorelai?

As for Lorelai being all weak in front of Anna, that is the story of Lorelai for the past few months. It is hard to believe that the same strong woman who we met in Season one is now this meek creature wordlessly accepting Luke pushing her further and further out of her life. One of the bright spots of this episode is they showed Luke and Lorelai spending time together (shopping and eating)... made you believe that there was still enough of a relationship there to warrant Lorelai's sheepish attitude.
ticknart said…
One thing that really bothered me about the Lorelai/Anna meeting was when Anna said that she still wasn't sure about Luke being in the picture. Didn't she let him spend an unsupervised visit with April at a snowy park the first time he asked? If she was really worried about April getting attached to him and then him leaving, wouldn't she have wanted to be around for the first several visits to make sure he's not going to quit after a while? Why does she care now?

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